An Athlete's Guide to How Mental Health and Performance Relate

An Athlete’s Guide to How Mental Health and Performance Relate

Athletes know the importance of maintaining excellent physical health for peak performance, but the role that mental health plays in athletic performance should also not be overlooked. By gaining a better understanding of how physical and mental health are linked, athletes can prepare both their bodies and minds better for competition.

The Stress Factor

Some degree of mental stress is expected with athletic competition, but too much stress from worrying or feeling pressure to perform at a top level can have detrimental effects on athletes. Too much stress can also create feelings of doubt that inhibit athletes from reaching their fullest potential. Even if an athlete does well in their chosen sport, extra stress can leave the participant feeling unsatisfied.

In addition to stressing over athletic performance, student athletes often feel extra pressure to maintain a high academic standard. Most schools require student athletes to achieve certain minimum grade point averages to continue to play for school sports teams, and this can make a student athlete’s life even more stressful.

Stress can also have negative physical effects on the body, which could further hinder athletic performance. Even though stress is often relieved through exercise, too much stress can restrict blood flow and cause extra muscle tension throughout the body, and this can negatively affect how the body moves when engaging in sports.

The Effects on Concentration

Problems with mental health often affect the ability to concentrate. Concentration is a key component of athletic performance, and this is especially true with sports like tennis and golf along with other athletic activities that require sharp mental concentration.

If an athlete isn’t able to concentrate fully because of stress, depression or other mental health problems, athletic performance will also likely suffer. An athlete could suddenly feel disoriented during play because of an inability to concentrate. A coach’s instructions might also be misinterpreted or not heard altogether if mental health troubles are interfering with concentration.

To improve concentration, any underlying mental health problems should be addressed so that the mind can focus on staying in the game rather than other issues that contribute to mental health challenges. Certain trigger words that are used during practices or competitions can also help sharpen mental focus. Additional sports performance coaching that works to improve an athlete’s mindset may also be highly beneficial.

How Rest and Recovery Could Suffer

Proper rest is essential in between games and practices. Resting can help relieve the stress that the body and mind often endure during competition, and rest is also needed for the muscles to repair themselves after physically strenuous activities. Without sufficient rest, the body isn’t able to recover and regenerate itself adequately for peak physical performance.

When depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems interfere with sleep and other forms of rest, an athlete can’t expect to maintain good results for the long term. The onset of fatigue is likely to occur sooner during practices and competitions and may even force an athlete to limit their playing time if they aren’t able to fulfill the physical demands of their sport.

When both physical and mental health concerns have been addressed properly, athletes will likely notice remarkable improvements in their athletic abilities. Athletes who need help with managing the mental side of sports can turn to professionals for additional support and guidance.